What role does customer analytics play in your day-to-day responsibilities?

JK: Caesars is an analytical marketing company—it’s in our DNA. Everything we do relies on insights analytically derived from data our customers give us permission to use. With analytics we’re able to tie 85% of our gaming revenue to specific customers, playing specific games on specific days. This means we can understand how profitable every customer is, identify their preferences based on how they spend their money with us, and then create highly-targeted offers and communications tailored to each person. Identifying customer value and preferences is a powerful combination, and one we couldn’t achieve without analytics.

In terms of recruitment and new hires, how is the casino industry different from other entertainment industries?

JK: Our business isn’t as straightforward as, say, a retail business, concert business or hotel. Our business includes all of that plus restaurants, pools, nightclubs and gambling. It’s really a collection of seven or eight related entertainment industries, so we don’t expect new hires to come in understanding this. Our strategy is to develop the right people by exposing them to several areas of our business, giving them experience in various parts of our organization.

What skills are attractive in someone looking to join your team?

JK: I’m looking for someone with a nimble analytical mind and fluid business thinking. A business degree from a leading institution is always a big help, but I also value candidates with a non-traditional background since I have one myself. Sometimes people who focus on credentials don’t bring the breadth of perspective and level of creative thinking our industry demands.

How did you get started in customer analytics?

JK: I started my career as a marketing strategy consultant when the internet was young and we were just launching into interactive channels. I became a specialist in analytical marketing by applying Darwinian principles to interactive marketing for ten years before Caesars asked me to join their team. I didn’t have any formal technical training; my technical learning was totally self-directed. Now I’m responsible for marketing technology and big data initiatives along with marketing operations. I’m interested in how technology enables customer engagement and interactions. How do we make use of our data? This changes so quickly that we have to keep developing new skills and mindsets around the discipline of analytics.

What brought you to Wharton?

JK: Gary [Loveman, Caesars CEO], in his classic dry delivery, said, “Kanter, you’ll never amount to anything without a vocational education.” He encouraged me to continue my education, to broaden my experience beyond the roles I’ve been fortunate to have. I love the people and experiences I’m having at Wharton. The primary value for me is to be a much more effective CMO or other executive officer by developing a better understanding of the disciplines of my peers on a senior management team.

View Gary Loveman’s Wharton Leadership Lecture on customer analytics (student password required)

Do you have any advice for current Wharton students interested in customer analytics?

JK: I’d encourage you to remember business isn’t something you learn in a book. It’s a set of disciplines you apply in combination to drive measurable business outcomes. You can develop these disciplines through coursework, but the key is to be able to use judgment and apply them in a context you’ve never experienced before. Accumulated knowledge and experience are very important, but real-time problem solving is key. Sometimes that last piece gets lost with people focusing exclusively only on a degree. Being nimble in your thinking and being willing—and able—to depart from the thinking you learned from books is a very valuable skill.

Discover things that get you genuinely excited and open up a new part of the world to you, and focus on them. I always loved math, stats, psychology and physics, and I’d extract whatever discipline or experience I could from them. Look for ways to think by analogy—this creativity is essential to business leadership.

Last, customer analytics is not an ivory tower. It’s an essential part of every business. You don’t need a job in analytics to be an analytical leader. Think of analytical skills as an essential ingredient in any role you take instead of just a role in a department called analytics.